Monthly Archives: January 2018

JUST LOVED READING: Harriet Beecher Stowe and the Beecher Preachers

JUST LOVED READING: Harriet Beecher Stowe and the Beecher Preachers
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Harriet Beecher Stowe and the Beecher Preachers

Middle Grade/Biography

Fritz, Jean. Harriet Beecher Stowe and the Beecher Preachers. New York: G.P. Putnam and Sons, 1994.

            Harriet Beecher Stowe wrote Uncle Tom’s Cabin in 1852, eight years before the start of America’s Civil War.  This is America’s first protest novel (according to many scholars) and is often listed as one of the books that had a profound change on society.

            Harriet came from a large family. Her father was Lyman Beecher, a well-known New England preacher. Lyman Beecher wanted his seven sons to become preachers. Lyman’s goals for his daughters was marriage and motherhood but they weren’t wilted flowers. Lyman’s drive and high expectations drove some of them to become educators, lecturers and writers. Harriet struggled to make her voice heard in this large family of strong personalities which consisted of three sets of siblings to three different mothers. She yearned to achieve something other than being a wife, mother and Lyman Beecher’s daughter. Over time, she transformed from a shy often melancholy young woman whose family struggled financially, to a confident writer, speaker and abolitionist.


Harriet (and all of her siblings) was taught to think and believe as her father did. Her brothers were not just expected to become preachers but to teach the Calvinist beliefs their father preached. Harriet had been against slavery but was not impassioned by the issue. The passage of the Fugitive Slave Act changed her opinions and propelled her to write Uncle Tom’s Cabin. The book’s publication brought her fame and wealth but Harriet never lost sight of the cause.

Harriet was a fighter and a survivor – for herself and for the abolition of slavery.


The period between the War of 1812 and before the Civil War is known as the Antebellum period. The era saw the rise of abolition and of the division between those who supported slavery and those who opposed it. There was an increase in manufacturing in the north. The textile industry grew in New England thanks to development and introduction of the spinning-jenny by British business person Samuel Slater.

Other innovations changed the economy of the north. In 1843, Richard M. Hoes developed the rotary printing press. Soon millions of newspapers could be printed and distributed cheaply as more people learned to read, Newly built canals, railroads and roads improved the way people traveled.

The borders of the United States expanded as fortune seekers and others settled uncharted territory. Between the years 1790 and 1840, the Second Awakening movement grew in influence and popularity especially among Baptists and Methodists and inspired the beginnings of the abolitionist and temperance movements.

Slaves used many passive forms of resistance including damaging equipment and  working slowly but they also rebelled openly. in response to the rebellions, white militias and mobs formed and legislators passed slave codes and other laws. In the north, the slave rebellions, evangelical fervor and the new printing presses galvanized the abolitionist movement.

Against this background, Harriet Beecher Stowe wrote Uncle Tom’s Cabin.

Harriet Beecher Stowe grew up in New England, moved to Cincinnati, Ohio and returned to New England. To read more about Harriet Beecher Stowe’s house visit the following link:


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JUST LOVED READING: Audacity Jones to the Rescue

JUST LOVED READING: Audacity Jones to the Rescue

Just Loved Reading:

Audacity Jones to the Rescue

Middle Grade/Historical Fiction

Larson, Kirby, Audacity Jones to the Rescue. New York: Scholastic Press, 2016.

Set at the turn of the 20th century, Audacity Jones to the Rescue is about a spunky, inquisitive, smart 11 year-old orphan. When her parents died at sea, went to live at Miss Maisie’s School for Wayward Girls in Swayze, Indiana. She was 6. Audacity is the one the other girls depend on for guidance and support. She is also the one who is sent to the Punishment Room daily. She looks forward to the Punishment Room because it is the library and Audacity loves to read. Her favorite books are novels about swashbucklers, pirates and other adventure heroes but she also loves books about science and geography.

When Commodore Critchfield comes to the school to visit and ask for a volunteer for a secret mission, Audacity jumps at the chance. The  Commodore was once well-to-do donor who is (secretly) down on his luck. Audacity slowly comes to learn about the Commodores’ nefarious scheme and with help from her friends, plots to stop him and his accomplices.


Audacity is a lovable character whose positive attitude propels the story. She doesn’t feel sorry for herself and boosts the morale of the other girls in the orphanage. She makes friends easily. Audacity looks at life as an adventure – an attitude that takes her to Washington DC, inside the White House, and almost gets her into trouble. The reader will root for her as she finds a way to thwart the Commodore’s evil plan (based on true events). The author does a good job of invoking the culture, fashion and other customs of the era and throughout the novel, the reader will feel that they are living in the first half of the last century.

Audacity Jones lived during the presidency of William Howard Taft. Click on the link below learn more about him and his presidency:

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JUST LOVED READING: Mr. Benjamin’s Suitcase of Secrets

JUST LOVED READING: Mr. Benjamin’s Suitcase of Secrets

Just Loved Reading:

Mr. Benjamin’s Suitcase of Secrets

Picture Book

Chang. Pei-Yu. Mr. Benjamin’s Suitcase of Secrets. New York: NorthSouth Books, Inc. 2016

Mr. Benjamin is an author and a philosopher of ideas. During World War II, his country begins to punish and jail people with ideas.

Mr. Benjamin realizes he must escape not only to save his live but to save his important ideas. How could he do this? The soldiers blocked  and guarded every street.

He went to see Mrs. Fittko who “knew all the hidden paths to everywhere.” Mrs. Fittko had saved many lives. Other people were there to ask Mrs. Fittko for help, too.

On the day of escape, Mr. Benjamin was late. Mrs. Fittko told everyone to pack lightly but Mr. Benjamin arrived lugging a large heavy suitcase. Mrs. Fittko could not persuade him to leave it behind. It contained all his new ideas. “It’s the most important thing to me – more important than my life.”

The group walked over and through olive groves and past blueberry buses.

Eventually they reached the Swiss border. The border guards let the people through – but not Mr. Benjamin.

Mr. Benjamin lived in a hotel in the mountains until he and his suitcase disappeared.


This is a true story. Mr. Walter Benjamin was a German author and philosopher. His suitcase of ideas may have disappeared but he left many of his writings with his friends or in the public library. Many brave dissidents today escape the countries of their birth because of political instability. Pei-Yu Chang tells Mr. Benjamin’s story so that children of almost any age can understand it. The illustrations are simple, colorful and child-like. Mr. Benjamin’s Suitcase of Secrets tells the story of yesterday’s and today’s refugees.

Switzerland Between the Two Wars:

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